|DeMaurice Smith, like some players, is taking a more militant tone with NFL management. (Getty Images)|
The NFLPA is prepared to make one other attempt via federal court to attempt to challenge Roger Goodell's powers regarding the Saints players discipline in the "bounty" case, according to sources with knowledge of the situation.
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If Goodell ends up upholding his own previous decisions on Jonathan Vilma, Anthony Hargrove, Scott Fujita and Will Smith, the NFLPA has a legal strategy in place to attempt to limit Goodell's powers via the court system. It plans to make the case that he should not have full authority in this matter because on-field discipline is doled out via Ted Cottrell and Art Shell.
The CBA gives Goodell wide berth here, and thus the court challenge may prove fruitless, but the step is likely to be taken to exhaust all legal means with frustration growing in union circles regarding the league's bounty investigation and subsequent penalties. Two grievances on the matter were denied by arbitrators -- they are currently under appeal -- including one that claimed these accusations to be the domain of the on-field justice system (Shell and Cottrell are hired jointly by the NFL and NFLPA).
The strategy also helps explain why the accused players did not speak or raise any new evidence during last week's appeals hearing in New York; they were advised to allow the league to continue the process using its evidence from the lengthy NFL investigation into the matter. Several parties involved in the case figure Goodell will render a decision as soon as this week, with many officials and executives heading to vacation in early July around the holiday, although the league has put no timetable on the commissioner's decision.
A final decision on filing the lawsuit has not been made, sources said, but several people familiar with the case said they expected it to be filed unless the NFL makes a drastic decision in regards to the punishment. The NFLPA has also requested that the NFL start a new investigation into the matter. To this point the NFL has said it stands behind its investigation.